Despite the known health benefits of washing hands with soap, global handwashing rates are low. In Nyanza Province, Kenya, a follow-up of 55 pilot primary schools three years after the implementation of a safe water and hygiene intervention revealed that only 2 per cent (one school) provided soap for handwashing on the day of the assessment. After identifying barriers to soap provision, SWASH+ partners piloted a handwashing intervention using powdered soap mixed with water to create soapy water in place of bar soap in 11 schools. The first six months of unannounced visits showed high uptake (10 schools). A one-year follow-up visit revealed a decrease of soapy water use (four schools). This paper discusses the soapy water intervention, initial and follow-up monitoring findings, potential sustainability drivers of handwashing programmes in rural primary schools and next steps.